Tumbar: a good word to know to be streetwise in this country. It means to rip somebody off, whether it be by overcharging them, selling them knockoff goods as originals, or any of the other endlessly unscrupulous ways that human beings come up with to hoodwink others. As far as I know, it’s a very Colombian word, though not an exclusively Colombian phenomenon, of course. I remember that it was my first boss in this country who taught me this word–just the theory, naturally. I’d say I’ve probably been overcharged by a taxi driver or two here, but for the most part I think I pay local prices, maybe give or take a few hundred pesos here and there. Is it really worth getting stressed over what amounts to a few extra cents now and again? No, it’s not, just so long as the tumbada isn’t too asinine on my part. Then again, I’m much too tacaña to be giving away many opportunities to be fleeced in the first place.

Another interesting word I learned recently is cabecear. I already knew it meant to nod off, but apparently it’s also a local synonym of tumbar. I’ll have to keep my ears perked to see if I hear it more. Tumbar is definitely very common, however. Its standard meaning, as I’m sure you already know, is to knock something down, such as a house, which is what the classic hit “La vamo a tumbar” from Colombia’s Pacific coast is all about. The singer’s happiness is so infectious, and it’s a great song to dance to at parties–you can listen to it here.

¿Pagaste doscientos mil por esos zapatos Nike, y salieron chiviados? ¡Te tumbaron!

You paid two hundred thousand pesos for those Nikes, and it turns out they’re fake? They really suckered you good!

No me ubico del todo en la ciudad todavía, pero sé lo suficiente para que los taxistas no me puedan tumbar.

I still don’t know my way around the city perfectly, but I know enough so the taxi drivers can’t rip me off.

__________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with this word? Had you heard it before? How have you heard it used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?


6 responses to “Tumbar

  1. Based on my experience, I’d say you can use “tumbar” instead of “cabecear”, but not the other way around.

    I use “cabecear” when there is a situation where one or more persons get something of less value than everybody else, not because of unscrupulous people but just because of bad luck or human mistakes.

    Suppose you are a kid in a birthday party. When the party is over, every kid gets a present when leaving the house. They open their presents and see remote controlled helicopters, but you get a yo-yo. The other kids would laugh at you and say “¡Ja, ja, ja, lo cabecearon!”.

    In the example above you could use “tumbar” instead, and it’s ok.

    But, in things like “¿Pagaste doscientos mil por esos zapatos Nike, y salieron chiviados? ¡Te tumbaron!” I would not use “cabecear”, though you could use “dar en la cabeza”.

    ¿Pagaste doscientos mil por esos zapatos Nike, y salieron chiviados? ¡Te dieron en la cabeza!

    I was born and been living in Medellín for 30 years, but I could be wrong.

    Nice blog, by the way :)


    • Thanks a lot for the detailed and vivid example. I’ll remember the disappointed kid with the yo-yo for a long time. It’s not a word I plan to start using any time soon, though– I just need to listen to how it’s used to get a better feel for it.

      I didn’t know “dar en la cabeza.”

      No need for false modesty– 30 years is more than enough to make you a local expert! Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by :)


    • The first (and only) phrase that comes to mind for that birthday party scenario is “to get gypped.”

      “Aw man, you totally got gypped!”


  2. Another meaning for cabecear is to hit the ball with your head, especially when playing soccer. cabecear also happens when someone is falling asleep in a sitting position and his/her neck muscles lose control, then your head just falls down and you suddenly rise it again. estabas viendo television y empezaste a cabecear,


    • Yes, I forgot to mention that it also means to head butt the ball. I covered the second definition with “to nod off.” Yo cabeceé muy seguido anoche en una ceremonia de premiación en que estaba! Gracias por las explicaciones.


  3. Pingback: Splitting hares | Vocabat

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